Mitsubishi's L200 pick-up is so ubiquitous that it is hard to imagine a building site, a farmyard or a market garden without one. Now in its fifth incarnation, it has been the workhorse of choice for umpteen British businesses that regularly work outdoors ever since it first appeared here over 30 years ago.
Fifth time around it boasts an all-new engine with an aluminium block said to be the first of its type in a pick-up, a redesigned suspension system, a strengthened chassis, more room in the cab and a modest amount of re-styling. But it is enough?
Though remaining popular, L200 Series 5 faces stiff competition from rivals such as Ford's soon-to-be-face-lifted Ranger, Volkswagen's Amarok, Isuzu's D-Max and Nissan's recently-revised Navara; and there is more competition just over the horizon. A revamped Toyota Hilux is on its way to the UK, Mercedes-Benz and Renault plan to enter the purpose-built pick-up market for the first time (in partnership with Nissan) and so does Fiat; with a re-badged L200.
So is Mitsubishi's product offer strong enough to retain existing customers and attract new ones or will they all trot off to rival dealer networks?
To find out, we ventured down the rain-sodden lanes and into one or two of the even-soggier fields of Herefordshire in a five-seater four-door double-cab L200 4x4 in top-of-the-range Barbarian trim and fitted with an automatic gearbox. Double-cabs are being launched initially, with other models set to join the range thereafter.
Access to the cargo bed is by means of a hefty tailgate that you drop down by flipping up the single, centrally-mounted, lever positioned in our case next to the rear-view camera. The tailgate locks into a horizontal position and cannot be lowered completely thanks to the beefy rear bumper which incorporates a step and the reversing sensors.
The handle is decorated with the Barbarian name as are all the vehicle's door-handle recesses.
Six load tie-down points are fitted but you will look in vain for a restraint frame and ladder rack mounted behind the cab. The plastic load area liner is an option - fitting one appears to obscure a couple of the tie-down points - as is the tow-bar.
One of L200 Series 5's key drawbacks is the comparatively modest size of the cargo bay. All of its key rivals offer more width and more length, although the Mitsubishi's sidewalls are slightly deeper than those provided by some of the competition.
While the so-called J-Line which smoothly integrates the cargo bay and the back of the cab may look more visually pleasing than the more-usual straight-line split between the two, and has created more cab interior space, it has been at the expense of load bed length
So how does the cargo area compare dimensionally with what is on offer from Ford's rival top-of-the-range 200hp 3.2-litre diesel Ranger Wildtrak Double Cab auto?
With L200 we are looking at a length and width of 1470mm and a sidewall/tailboard height of 475mm. Ranger's figures are 1549mm, 1560mm and 511mm respectively.
How about payload capacity? Ranger Wildtrak offers 20kg less, at 1035kg, but can haul a braked trailer grossing at 3500kg compared with Barbarian's 3100kg.
Make full use of Ranger's maximum payload and towing capacity however and you will breach its gross train weight limit. What this means is that if your Wildtrak is laden to maximum capacity then your towing capacity will in fact be restricted to 2750kg.
Cab and equipment
Barbarian specification delivers all the goodies any driver is likely to want.
For your money you get leather trim throughout, climate control, heated front seats and a touch-screen DAB digital radio/satellite navigation system with MP3 compatibility, Bluetooth and a USB port. The rear-view camera gives you an excellent view on a screen in the middle of the fascia of whatever is behind you when you engage reverse.
The redesigned driver's seat is electrically-adjustable for reach, rake and height and the steering wheel is height- and reach-adjustable.
Other useful features include cruise control with a speed-limiter, heated electrically-adjustable exterior rear-view mirrors, electric windows in all four doors and driver and front passenger airbags.
If you look around in fact you will spot no less than seven airbags; and while we're talking about safety, front fog-lights are included in the Barbarian deal. Good to see long-lasting LED daytime running lights incidentally.
All the usual electronic safety devices are installed including ABS with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution - disc brakes are fitted at the front, drums at the back - Hill Start Assist and Trailer Stability Assist. Lane Departure Warning is fitted too and kicks in at 40mph.
All the doors feature bins as part of a small suite of oddment storage facilities. It includes a lidded glove-box, a deep lidded bin between the front seats and a cubby-hole near the bottom of the dashboard which looks about the right size for a tachograph should you be towing a heavy trailer.
You will find a couple of cup-holders between the front seats too, a holder for your sunglasses just above the windscreen and space behind the rear seat which can be used to hide easily-stolen items such as power tools.
Happily all three of the back seat's occupants enjoy the protection of a lap-and-diagonal belt and an adjustable headrest although the middle passenger's headrest is a little on the small side.
It is a bit of a stretch to describe L200 as a five-seater given that the central rear seating position is only really usable by skinny people on short journeys. When nobody is acting as piggy-in-the-middle then a centre arm-rest with a couple of cup-holders can be folded down to allow the two remaining passengers to travel in reasonable comfort; there is no lack of legroom.
One or two of L200's fixtures and fittings feel a little flimsy and plasticky; the exterior door handles for example and the mirror casings. A minor point perhaps, but one Mitsubishi cannot afford to ignore in an increasingly-competitive sector of the market.
Incorporating steps, the decorative sill bars aid entry to the cab. Likely to be of help when climbing aboard at night are the blue down-lighters set into the rear seat base and the illuminated blue Barbarian nameplate set into the driver and front passenger sills.
Three other L200 trim levels are marketed starting with the entry-level 4Life then advancing through Titan and Warrior prior to reaching Barbarian's dizzy heights. Prospective purchases intending to use the truck more as a working tool than as an alternative to a passenger car may feel it makes sense to drop down a level or two; and save themselves some cash.
Offering a 30kg weight-saving thanks to all that aluminium, L200's 2.4-litre common-rail direct-injection intercooled four-cylinder diesel comes with a variable-geometry turbocharger, variable valve timing and a low 15.5:1 compression ratio.
It pumps out maximum power of 178hp at 3500rpm. Top torque of 430Nm bites at 2500rpm and in our case it was married to the aforementioned five-speed auto box.
Unusually for a pick-up, if you slot the gear shift lever into D for Drive and move it to the right then you can change gear manually with your finger tips using paddles mounted on the steering column. A new six-speed manual transmission is the alternative.
If 178hp is more power than you need then you can always opt for the 151hp version of the 2.4-litre installed in 4Life; just so long as you don't mind entry-level trim.
Chassis and steering
L200 now comes with stiffer springs for its independent front suspension plus a bigger stabiliser bar, longer rear leaf springs and half-a-dozen shock-absorbing body mounts that are more than twice the size of those fitted to its predecessor. The aim is to improve both the ride and the handling, with torsional rigidity said to be 5% to 7% greater than what was on offer from the old model.
Finished in a somewhat lurid shade of metallic blue, our Barbarian was equipped with 17ins alloy wheels shod with Bridgestone Dueler H/T 245/65 R17 tyres.
A tight 11.8m minimum turning circle - tighter than some of the truck's rivals - aids manoeuvrability.
Offering an at-times nervous ride when un-laden despite the suspension re-design, L200 calms down a bit - though never entirely - once you put some weight in the back. Even when heavily-laden it still pulls strongly enabling you to sweep past slower-moving traffic on steep hills when it is safe to do so.
The auto box slides smoothly from one gear to the next. While the ability to switch to a manual gear-change is useful when you are off-road and the paddle-change couldn't be easier to use, most drivers will find automatic mode is all they require when travelling over paved surfaces.
In-cab noise levels are subdued, but it is L200's exemplary handling that is the real, and welcome, surprise. It clings on determinedly through bends to a far greater degree than any other pick-up of its size.
Engaging the Super Select 4WD-II four-wheel-drive system is a doddle. All you need to do is twist a knob between the front seats.
Remain with the 2H setting and you stay with rear-wheel-drive. Select 4H and you move to four-wheel-drive, 4HLc gives you 4x4 with the centre diff locked while 4LLc gives you everything 4HLc gives you plus a set of low-range gears.
In other words you can choose the setting appropriate to the conditions you face. with 4HLc the one to choose if you are going to tackle some serious off-roading.
ASTC - Active Stability and Traction Control with Brake Assist - should help. It brakes spinning wheels individually and controls power distribution from the engine if traction is lost on slippery surfaces or when negotiating steep slopes.
With Super Select you can switch from two-wheel-drive to four-wheel-drive and back at speeds of up to 62mph and there are no issues when it comes to moving to four-wheel-drive on paved surfaces says Mitsubishi. 4Life models get the more basic Easy Select system.
Ground clearance is 205mm.
Off-road L200 happily sloshed through clinging mud and driving rain and ploughed resolutely up and down embankments with 4HLc proving perfectly adequate for everything we encountered in a miserable British summer.
Buying and running
A 12,500-mile service interval is on the short side and we would like to see it stretched to 15,000 miles. Going beyond that might be problematic however if the truck is regularly used off-road given the hammering it may get and especially if it is employed in a dusty environment; in a quarry for example.
Good to see that L200 comes with a five-year/62,500-mile warranty with roadside rescue for the first three years and a 12-year anti-corrosion perforation warranty.
Carefully tickling the Barbarian along we achieved around 35mpg; a little way behind the official combined figure of 39.2mpg. Other models in the line-up boast a creditable combined figure of up to 42.8mpg with CO2 emissions as low as 169g/km.
L200 comes with keyless ignition.
Get behind the wheel with the key fob and you can start the engine by pressing a button on the dashboard. That is always assuming that the gear shift is in P for park and you've got your foot on the brake pedal.
The fob contains an emergency key which will at least allow you to open the truck's doors.
Has some limitations but there is more to like than dislike
Mitsubishi L200 Series 5 Barbarian automatic double-cab
Price (ex VAT) – £25,199
Price range (ex VAT) – £19,749-£25,199
Gross payload – 1050kg
Load length – 1470mm
Load width – (min/max) 1041mm/1470mm
Load bay height – 475mm
Loading height – 850mm
Gross vehicle weight – 2910kg
Braked trailer towing weight – 3100kg
Residual value – TBA
Cost per mile – TBA
Engine size/power – 2442cc, 178hp @ 3500rpm
Torque – 430Nm @ 2500rpm
Gearbox – 5sp auto
Fuel economy – 39.2mpg (combined)
Fuel tank – 75 litres
CO2 – 189g/km
Warranty – 5yrs/62,500 miles
Service intervals – 1yr/12,500 miles
Insurance group – 13E
Price as tested – £26,026.44
Chrome undertray cover - £169.99
Load area liner - £177.49
Set of mats - £49.99
Rear obstacle detector - £123.32
Tow-bar with 13-pin electrics - £306.65
Pick-ups might have been many things when Mitsubishi first ventured into the sector some 33 years ago in the UK but cool wasn't one of them. They were basic workhorses for builders, and that was that.
How times have changed.
It was with the L200 Series 2 launched back in 1987 that Mitsubishi started to promote the idea of pick-ups as a fashion statement with the introduction of alloy wheels shod with wide tyres, a double-pipe roll bar and a large front grille guard. The trend accelerated with the debut of the Series 3 in 1996 and the arrival of the Animal variant and really established itself from 2006 onwards with the Series 4.
As well as promoting derivatives such as Warrior and Barbarian and the availability of lots of bling Mitsubishi has been quick to stress the truck's capabilities as an off-roader with a user-friendly 4x4 system. Nor have the needs of operators with more basic requirements been entirely neglected, with the 4Life models offering a package calculated to appeal to fleets rather than owner-drivers.